The Roommate Situation: Landlords Beware
There will likely come a time in your landlord experience when you will come across two or more tenants wishing to rent your property as roommates. They may seem sane and they may pass your tenant screening with flying colors. In fact, the entire situation may seem to make sense.
The truth is - roommate situations can lead to more work (collecting rent, security deposits, etc.) and they can get ugly at times. Before you agree to rent your property to unrelated tenants, you will want to take a few steps to protect yourself – and your property – from a roommate situation gone wrong.
Have all parties sign the lease
If a lease isn’t signed, then it is not enforceable. If one of the roommates doesn’t sign, then he or she cannot be held accountable for the rent. Make it your policy that anyone 18 years of age and older that is going to be residing at the property must be screened and listed on the lease. This includes a tenant who arrives after the initial lease date.
Require rent to be paid in one check
However the roommates choose to split the costs of rent, utilities, and the like is none of your concern. As the landlord, you want your rent payment. Require this to be paid to you in one payment, one check, one money order, etc. This will reduce the chance of not receiving the full payment or encountering the drama of one tenant passing the blame onto another, etc.
Include this language on your lease agreement
When drawing up your lease, you will want to use the language, “jointly and severally,” when referring to the tenants. This holds each tenant on the lease responsible for the entire agreement. Many tenants renting a space with roommates prefer to only be responsible for a split portion of everything. This can leave you, as the landlord, in some hot water should one tenant bail.
If you’d like to enforce the lease in it’s best capacity, add the phrase, “jointly and severally liable.”
Encourage a roommate agreement
You cannot enforce this or make your tenants have an agreement, but you can highly suggest that they develop a roommate agreement. This would be an agreement between all tenants and would state the responsibilities of each – when it comes to finances and other responsibilities - as well as the rules of the house. While it may not be a legal agreement that would hold up in court, it is something that will clearly and concisely lay out the duties of each tenant.
Don’t get in the middle
Last, but certainly not least, do not get in the middle of tenant disagreements. Do not take sides and do not involve yourself in any arguments or disputes that are taking place between the tenants at your rental property.
At some point in life, nearly everyone has dealt with a roommate situation. It is important to keep a clear head and focus on what you need to do – maintain your rental property and collect your rent payments. You are the landlord. Protect yourself.
Marina Shlomov, a managing partner at ALH|Podland Realty & Rental Homes Property Management is the author of many articles on Landlording, Property Management, and Real Estate Investing. A residential builder in the state of Georgia since 1999, Marina is an investor herself. Her property management company is intended “For Investors” and “By Investors” for a simple reason – she knows what investors’ goals are and she works hard to reach their goals. In her spare time, Marina likes to spend time with her family, friends, garden, read and travel. Check her out at www.alhpodland.com. You can find Marina’s articles and comments at @rentalhomesatl on Twitter, on Facebook, Google+, Blogger. and YouTube,Bigger Pockets and REI Club and LinkedIn.